Alpine Meadows: The Art Linkletter connection | SierraSun.com

Alpine Meadows: The Art Linkletter connection

Mark McLaughlin
Special to the Bonanza

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, near Lake Tahoe's North Shore, has been a favorite for locals and visitors ever since it opened in 1961. Designed by skiers for skiers, "Alpine" offered an alternative to its fast-paced neighbor Squaw Valley.

Long before its 2011 acquisition by KSL Capital Partners, the investment company that now owns Squaw Valley, Alpine has always offered some of the best skiing terrain in the region, with modern lifts and extensive snowmaking enhancing access to its powder chutes and sun-warmed slopes of ego-boosting corn snow.

Now that Alpine and Squaw are sister resorts under one owner, a lift ticket gets you on both mountains for some of the best skiing and riding in the West.

During the 1940s, Wayne Poulsen, the primary landowner and original partner with Alexander Cushing in the Squaw Valley Development Corp., had considered developing Alpine Meadows as a companion mountain.

But Poulsen thought that an access road into Alpine would be too dangerous due to significant avalanche hazard. His dream was to connect Squaw Valley with Alpine Meadows using chairlifts like European resorts do, a vision that has yet to come to fruition despite many attempts.

In the late 1950s, however, a small group of investors decided to develop the Alpine Meadows ski resort next to, but separate from Squaw. Roads were built, trees thinned and lifts installed.

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The new Alpine Meadows ski area opened with three chairlifts on Dec. 28, 1961. Founded by John Reily, a successful businessman and avid skier, Alpine originated as a family serviced ski resort for many of its earliest investors.

In December 1963 ski instructor Werner Shuster was hired by Alpine's director of ski school Luggi Foeger. Shuster intended to work one season, but ended up taking over the school and staying for another 40 years.

Legendary American television entertainer Art Linkletter skied all over the world, but he loved to ski Alpine Meadows. Best known for his humorous TV interviews with children in the 1950s, and writing the bestselling book, "Kids Say the Darndest Things," Linkletter was also a remarkable athlete who first began skiing at age 50.

He loved it so much he skied competitively in senior races until he was 93 years old. In the 1960s, Linkletter joined Alpine's board of directors and the resort was soon hosting its annual "Art Linkletter Family Slalom."

Frequently seen on some of Alpine's steepest terrain, Linkletter spent the day pumping runs and telling jokes on the chairlift. Linkletter was finally forced to give up the sport when he returned from a speaking tour to discover that his wife had given away all his equipment, saying she "wanted to be a wife, not a nurse."

Art always said "Skiing is the closest thing to flying and dancing." He got that right.

Lake Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at http://www.thestormking.com. He can be reached at mark@thestormking.com. Check out Mark's blog at http://www.tahoenuggets.com.